- Merced NWR, located in California's northern San Joaquin Valley, is critically important to wintering waterfowl. The refuge is made up of 7,035 acres of native grasslands, agricultural fields, and wetlands, providing the primary wintering area for the largest flock of lesser sandhill cranes and Ross' geese in the Pacific Flyway, as well as important habitat for northern pintails, cackling Canada geese, and a wide variety of shorebirds.
The refuge has approximately 2,000 acres of seasonally-flooded marsh and 750 acres of corn, irrigated pasture and winter wheat. The marshes are primarily flooded from September through June and attract thousands of migrating and wintering birds. Large numbers of which stop to feed on the wetlands' protein-rich invertebrates and crustaceans. By providing food for migratory waterfowl, the agricultural lands also reduce depredation of agricultural crops on private lands.
During the winter, large populations of pintails, green-winged teal, shovelers, mallards, gadwalls, four species of geese, and sandhill cranes exist. Fall and spring migrants include phalaropes, yellowlegs, dowitchers, sandpipers, long-billed curlews, black-bellied plovers and white-faced ibis. Summer residents include nesting mallards, gadwalls, cinnamon teal, avocets, black-necked stilts, American bitterns, and several species of herons and egrets. Ring-necked pheasants are also common.
Recreation - Recreation activities include wildlife observation, study, and photography.
Visitors may tour the refuge on 5.2 miles of all-weather road and view migratory birds from an observation platform. There is also a 0.6 mile walking trail that winds trough native trees and shrubs and offers a handicapped accessible wildlife observation platform. Sixteen blinds are available on the refuge to use during the waterfowl and pheasant hunting seasons. Merced is open for hunting until noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the hunting season.
Climate - A generally warm, dry climate prevails in the Central Valley. It is hot in the summer, mid in the winter. In the Central Valley, precipitation falls mainly from October through April. Winter temperatures well below freezing produce frost, however, snow is very rare. Summer temperatures above 100 F are part of the normal pattern.
From Merced, drive 8 miles south on State Highway 59, then 8 miles west on Sandy Mush Road.